A call to action: Improving urban green spaces to reduce health inequalities exacerbated by COVID-19

Rebecca S. Geary*, Benedict Wheeler, Rebecca Lovell, Ruth Jepson, Ruth Hunter, Sarah Rodgers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Health is not equally distributed across society; there are avoidable, unfair, systematic differences in health between population groups. Some of these same groups (older people, BAME communities, those with some non-communicable diseases (NCDs)) may be particularly vulnerable to risk of exposure and severe COVID-19 outcomes due to co-morbidities, structural vulnerabilities, and public-facing or health and social care jobs among other factors. Additionally, some of the restrictions designed to reduce SARS-CoV-2 spread impact specifically on these same groups by limiting their activity and access to preventive or health promotion services. Greenspaces, accessed with social distancing, may mitigate some of the predicted negative health effects of COVID-19 restrictions. Maintaining or increasing publicly accessible urban greenspaces, particularly for marginalised groups, is reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals, and its importance amplified in the COVID-19 pandemic. Urban greenspaces should be considered a public health and social investment and a chance to rebalance our relationship with nature to protect against future pandemics. By investing in urban public greenspaces, additional benefits (job/food creation, biodiversity promotion, carbon sequestration) may coincide with health benefits. Realising these requires a shift in the balance of decision making to place weight on protecting, enhancing and providing more appropriate greenspaces designed with local communities. The current pandemic is a reminder that humanity placing too many pressures on nature has damaging consequences. COVID-19 economic recovery programs present an opportunity for sustainable transformation if they can be leveraged to simultaneously protect and restore nature and tackle climate change and health inequalities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106425
JournalPreventive Medicine
Early online date16 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • COVID-19
  • greenspace
  • inequalities
  • nature


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